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Love, Care, and Comrades

by Ethan Tussey

by Zach Campbell for IN MEDIA RES

In the conversational book In Praise of Love, Alain Badiou wonders, “what on earth is “fraternity”? No doubt it is related to the issue of differences, of their friendly co-presence within the political process, the essential boundary being the confrontation with the enemy.” Viewed through a political framework, love itself has no necessary enemy, that is, in love unlike in politics, the goal is to “experience the world from the point of view of difference.” There's much I'd leave behind in Badiou, but this formulation of love and politics—analogized in relation to family and state—seems to point in a fruitful direction. Living with difference is a challenge (we could also say an opportunity) revisited at both the micro and the macro levels of politics. Or, in other words, we must live with difference among our politics allies as with our antagonists.

When one loves another (partner, parent, child, friend, comrade), there is supposed to remain affection in surplus to the strict requirements of duty or obligation. What is to be done with the surplus? Where do we put it? If the State is to operate as a tool to see the fruits of our collective capabilities, then might love, as a mode of recognizing fellow-feeling and care, provide an under-tapped resource in terms of establishing political solidarity? The aesthetics of militancy and of radicalism, in particular, have often tended toward figural austerity and privation. There are numerous examples but Exhibit A might be V for Vendetta and its stress on the astringent value of pain and lies. This all seems premised on a good faith renunciation of bourgeois or neoliberal paradigms of self-fashioning, such as the subject as the crisis-oriented, target-marketed consumer.

Not every objection to precarious personhood and neoliberal politics takes this straightforwardly oppositional approach, however. Brooklyn-based Irish filmmaker Donal Foreman's Kittens / Communism exploits and explores this ostensible contradiction. It lays the voice of an activist discussing care and self-care over a few long takes of the Internet's favorite form of idle, pleasurable nourishment: adorable kittens playing. Foreman's short film “works”—it pierces—precisely because it must register this point ironically. This isn't the irony of winking detachment, but rather of embodying through form a contradictory premise that is prevalent elsewhere. Rather than doing so through voluntary aesthetic of poverty, we might better orient ourselves with other selves by way of care, comfort, and love.


Love and Comrades

The short film Kittens/Communism

from Kittens/Communism (2014)
Creator: Donal Foreman
Distributor: Vimeo
Posted by Ethan Tussey